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Promoting diversity in boardroom Women Corporate Directors Foundation launches Sri Lanka chapter

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WCD, KPMG LLP and IFC join forces to increase the number of women on corporate boards in Sri Lanka

In a bid to promote boardroom diversity and establish a network of existing and prospective women directors, the Women Corporate Directors Foundation (WCD)—the largest organization of women corporate board members globally—launched its first local chapter in Sri Lanka last week (1).

Supported by IFC (International Finance Corporation – a sister organization of the World Bank and member of the World Bank Group, under the IFC-DFAT Women in Work program, this initiative aims to offer a platform for Sri Lankan women board members to share industry expertise while helping the country increase its pipeline of aspiring and qualified female board members.

In Sri Lanka, despite higher education, women are significantly underrepresented in the labor force. Only around one in three women of working age are employed. This gap further widens among senior managers, board members, and business owners. The percentage of women among board members of listed entities in Sri Lanka is also low, compared to South Asian peers such as India (12 percent) and Bangladesh (17 percent). According to IFC’s latest findings, around 9.5 percent of board directors on the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) listed companies are women.

“Despite the low numbers on women on boards, Sri Lanka has a well-accomplished pool of women directors representing a wide spectrum of industries. In this context, as part of WCD’s growing presence in Asia-Pacific, we are delighted to launch our first-ever local chapter in the country,” said Susan Stautberg, WCD CEO and Chairperson. “As a WCD member, Sri Lankan women directors will have better access to trends and expertise from global economies, helping strengthen their knowledge when advocating for improved corporate governance practices for businesses.”

A significant and growing body of research points to the business benefits associated with gender diversity on boards and in senior management, including increased financial performance and productivity as well as improved environment, social and governance (ESG) practices. In Sri Lanka, IFC’s research highlighted that the top 30 CSE-listed companies with higher gender diversity perform better in terms of financial measures, including return on equity, return on total assets, and price to earnings ratio.

“Diversity is not just a moral imperative, it also makes perfect business sense,” said Alfonso Garcia Mora, IFC’s Vice President for Asia and Pacific. “The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that companies with better environment, social and governance (ESG) practices and board diversity have been more resilient in recovery.”

The launch of the Sri Lanka Women Corporate Directors chapter will be a significant step in raising the profile of women board directors who help create value for businesses in the country. The demonstration effect of this competitive advantage of having aspiring women board members or senior managers who are ‘board ready’ is critical to build leadership pipelines for boards.

“Australia has a steadfast commitment to be at the forefront in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. Through this latest initiative under the IFC-DFAT Women in Work program, we hope to continue our push towards enhancing greater equality and diversity in Sri Lanka’s private sector,” said David Holly, Australian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka. “I believe that the 16 founding members of the Sri Lanka Chapter of Women’s Corporate Directors (WCD) would play a significant role in taking this agenda forward. My congratulations to them.”

The Women Directors Forum of Sri Lanka Institute of Directors (SLID) will play a catalytic role in this initiative as the co-chair of the local WCD chapter. In addition, the Sri Lanka chapter will also be supported by KPMG LLP, one of the largest professional services firms and also the oldest Chartered Accountancy firm in the country.



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Business

Seven factors of concern at upcoming Monetary Policy Review

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by Sanath Nanayakkare

The Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) is scheduled to announce its latest monetary policy review on 20th January 2022, with all eyes on dwindling foreign reserves and foreign currency exchange in the country.

In this context, First Capital Research has named 7 factors of concern that could be taken into account at the upcoming monetary policy review. They are as follows.

* Foreign Reserves USD 3.1 billion – Dec 2021

* Inflation CCPI 12.1% – Dec 2021

* GDP Growth -1.5% – 3Q2021

* Private Credit LKR 60.5 billion – Nov 2021

* 03M T-Bill rate 8.38% as at 12.01.22

Liquidity and CBSL Holdings LKR -364.0 billion and LKR 1.42 trillion

Balance of Trade (BOT) and Balance of Payment (BOP) USD -6.5 billion and USD -3.3 billion for Jan-Oct 21

First Capital Research’s Policy Rate Forecast – Jan 2022-Apr 2022 notes that they believe the CBSL may highly consider tightening the monetary policy rates in this policy review but given the concerns over economic growth, there is a probability of 40% for CBSL to maintain its policy stance at current levels.

“With high frequent indicators improving in line with expectations, we have eliminated any probability of a rate cut. We expect a continued increase in probability for a rate hike in order to prevent overheating of the economy amidst the given fiscal and monetary stimulus,” they said.

As per First Capital’s view, CBSL either can choose to hike policy rates by 50bps or 100bps or hold policy rates steady, while a rate cut is off the table due to the high debt repayment and the high domestic borrowing requirement.

First Capital believes that there is a 60% probability for a rate hike due to the remedial actions required in achieving external stability.

However, there is also a 40% probability to maintain the policy rates at its current level in order to further improve the high frequency indicators.30%, they noted.

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Sri Lanka’s dash brand enters international markets

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Multichemi International Ltd, which manufactures and distributes a wide range of products under dash, one of Sri Lanka’s leading detergent and household care brands, has begun exporting its products to several international markets in Asia and Oceania, with plans also to enter Africa. The dash brand includes a wide range of products in car care, household care, home fragrances and laundry care sectors. Multichemi International Ltd, which has been awarded ISO 9001:2015 certification, is a Sri Lankan pioneer in environment-friendly cleaning products, having launched the country’s first biodegradable, safe cleaning products over 28 years ago.

Amila Wijesinghe, General Manager of the Company said,”Having conquered the domestic market, we are now ready to capture the international market. We are confident that our products which are of high quality will receive a good demand overseas as well. The feedback we have received so far from our overseas customers is extremely encouraging. We are dedicated to taking our products to the international market, to bring in foreign currency to the country and help uplift the economy”,

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Janaka Abeysinghe appointed SLT CEO

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Sri Lanka Telecom PLC has announced the appointment of Janaka Abeysinghe as its Chief Executive Officer (CEO) with effect from February 1, 2022.

The incumbent CEO Kiththi Perera will be overseas on leave for a period of two years to pursue higher studies, according to a stock market filing by the company.

Abeysinghe joined SLT in 1991. In his present role, he leads the enterprise and wholesale business of SLT that provides integrated voice and data solutions to enterprises, government institutions, domestic telco operators and global wholesale carriers.

In his career at SLT spanning 29 years, he has held a number of senior positions, including general manager Enterprise and International Sales and has extensive experience in the areas of Enterprise Digital Services, Enterprise Communications Solutions, Data Communications, Business Development, Domestic and International Switching Operations and Global Wholesale Voice & Data Business.

He holds a Master’s Degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Kansas, USA and a BSc degree in Electronics and Telecommunications Engineering with a First Class Honours from the University of Moratuwa.

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